Malloy Reassures Municipal Leaders About State Aid; Warns About Education Funding Changes
December 14, 2011
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy reassured dozens of Connecticut's municipal leaders Wednesday that their communities' revenue-sharing funds for the next fiscal year appear safe.
But that doesn't mean there's any hope for extra money, he quickly added.
Malloy was the star speaker at the Council of Small Towns' workshop for newly elected mayors, first selectmen and town council members from across the state.
During breaks in the half-day session, they talked about strategies for coping with stagnant tax bases, rising expenses and the costly — and unexpected — cleanups from Hurricane Irene and the October snowstorm.
Towns and cities are already putting together budgets for the fiscal year that begins next July, and Malloy predicted they can rely on the current projections of how much they'll receive in state aid. He emphasized that the two-year spending plan he and the General Assembly passed last spring was aimed at saving municipalities from the drastic aid reductions that many other states imposed.
"Having been handed a nearly $3.7 billion deficit on Jan. 5, I very much had you in mind when I formulated my approach," Malloy told municipal leaders in a Capitol meeting hall. "That's why Connecticut went in a very different direction than other states."
New York, New Jersey and others refused to raise state taxes, and instead balanced their budgets partly by deeply slashing municipal aid and education grants. Malloy said that amounted to simply passing down their fiscal troubles to towns and cities.
"And now we're reading about other states falling short and changing their tax policies," Malloy said. "We went down a different road. We can expect in the reasonable future to be on a strong fiscal footing."
At the same time, the state may change how it allocates school funding. The General Assembly is preparing to revise Connecticut's Education Cost Sharing formula, which establishes the amount of school aid given to each town and city.
Berlin Mayor Adam Salina asked whether Malloy would help protect small towns from losing out if the new formula directs more of the money to large, impoverished cities. Malloy said the state needs to concentrate on school districts where students are performing significantly below average, and offered no guarantee that the others wouldn't have to sacrifice to help them.
"We've got to do something better in our urban areas to educate our young people," Malloy said. "We have to look at how we support education in fewer than 30 school districts were we really need to turn things around."
But he also said the state should cut back its bureaucratic reviews and paperwork demands on school systems that are functioning well, reducing demands on administrators and support staffs there.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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